How to Paint a House.
Chapter 1- Meet Bella.
It was the summer before my sixteenth birthday when Edward Cullen came into my life.
I guess it all started the afternoon my father Charlie decided to paint the house. Our little wood paneled bungalow had seen better days─ worn and tattered from withstanding the Forks Washington winters. So as soon as the spring rains let up, and June rolled around, Charlie committed himself to the daunting task of painting our home.
My father was a methodical man, a simple man, and taking on this job was not something he did lightly. So when he finally decided on a particularly white shade of white, he used his pull in town as police chief to hit up the neighbors for ladders, drop cloths, paint trays and rollers.
The first morning after school let out, Charlie tried with all of his might to rope me into assisting him. Ever since my parents divorced, and I made the agonizing decision to live with my father, the two of us were pretty much inseparable.
But the summer was just starting, and being daddy's little helper didn't appeal to me in the way it might have in the past.
"You sure you don't want to help your old man?" Charlie asked me over his newspaper,
I slurped the last of the milk from my bowl, and dropped it resolutely to the table. "Dad, no, I told you, I'm trying something new this summer," I said.
Charlie's mouth turned up at the corners. "Oh, and what might that be?" He asked.
"I'm trying out being a lazy teenage girl who sleeps by day, and loiters aimlessly by night around movie theatres and malls." I said, smiling at my dad impishly.
But I wasn't kidding. My best friend Angela and I had pledged that we were going to branch out. We were convinced we were the only incumbent sophomore's who had never been kissed…or said a swear word…or worn a bra with padding in it.
Charlie laughed and rose from the table. "Well, the invitation is open," he said with a smile, leaning over to kiss my temple, his dark handlebar mustache tickling my face.
"Bye Dad," I smiled.
After the screen door shrieked shut, and I was alone, I felt this overwhelming urgency to do something. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the requisite lawnmowers were providing the backing track to the sounds of children playing─ It was summer, and I wanted to savor every second.
And for me that meant curling up in my favorite tree with a book…alone.
It's not that my fifteen year old hormones didn't desire company─ They did…believe me. It's just that I had absolutely no flipping idea how to talk to boys. Like at all.
Every day, I thought about it more. I felt that pull in the pit of my chest. I wanted to be kissed, to be touched, to be held in strong arms so that I could feel that indescribable feeling of ecstasy in the arms of a lover. I read about it so often, I could almost taste it…but at the same time it was completely out of the realm of my current possibilities.
So I resigned myself to loving men in literature─ learning about them through the heroines in my books. I placed myself in their shoes, and imagined myself in their time─ wooing and bewitching and charming the socks off of men until they fell at my feet and pronounced their undying love to me.
My thoughts sometimes made me blush. The things I imagined─ reddened my face with shame. But that didn't stop my overwhelming curiosity. My perverted imagination only made it that much worse.
Unfortunately, my reality didn't match my fantasy. I was a horribly naïve and awkward fifteen year old girl, with long uncut brown hair, and plain brown eyes, and questionable assets to attract men besides barely there b-cups and long skinny legs.
My body was different than the summer before though, I recognized that. My old green one piece bathing suit no longer fit, and I had actual breasts, and hips, and a bum to burst its seams…But maybe my brain hadn't caught up yet? In my head, this strange body wasn't mine. It was someone else's─ someone who knew what to do with it.
I simply did not know what to do…about anything of a sexual nature. And the idea of making that leap, taking that plunge, going out later that night to test out my newfound assets and perhaps attract a male terrified me. I was much more comfortable in my tree, with my book and my imagination. I was safe there.
So I spent my day in Regency England, as Elizabeth Bennet, wooing the enigmatic Darcy─ self assured, quick witted and confident. I imagined myself as beautiful Jane, shy and demure, but alluring to the good natured Bingley. These girls had qualities that I admired, but struggled to recognize in myself. I couldn't for the life of me see myself as anything but an awkward child. I couldn't fathom any boy taking interest in me. I almost resigned myself, on that first day of summer, to another kiss-less year. The strong arms of a man would happen later…in a distant future where I wasn't so…me.
That night though, I kept my promise to Angela, and put on my best cutoffs and tank top for a night of teenage tedium. We were going to go to the high school football field, where the boys were having a pickup game.
Now when I say boys, I don't mean that in any sort of territorial way. They weren't my boys, they weren't our boys…they were boys who looked past us, looked through us, and saw other girls that were not us.
And by us, I mean Angela Weber and me. We didn't do anything without each other. We took every milestone together. We existed in our own little world together─ two outsiders, wallflowers, taking on high school together. Angela and Bella weren't complete outcasts though. No one actively hated us, or picked on us, or rejected us from the group…
But they didn't exactly include us either. We sort of floated around the periphery…never really breaking in.
Angela was more resolute in changing that than I was though. Her transition into womanhood had gone a little more smoothly than mine did too. She was also brunette, and skinny, and delicate featured, and to those who didn't know us, the only difference between us was that Angela wore glasses and I didn't. But Angela had a delicate feminine quality to her. She was the demure shy Jane Bennet type, just waiting for a sweet soul to understand her.
I had to repress tinges of jealousy toward her to be honest─ because there was a part of me that knew Angela was a lot closer to having a boyfriend than I was. She was more put together, more confident, more apt at conversing with males. Somewhere along the way she had acquired a quiet sophistication, while I remained awkward and tomboyish and relatively unkempt compared to my peers.
It's not that I didn't try. I bought a tube of mascara, and learned how to blow dry my hair smooth, and shaved my legs, and made sure that I always had a lip gloss in my pocket… But I think coming off as mature required something internally that I didn't possess yet. Because as much as I attempted to replicate the pulled together, kempt, pristine look of my peers; I always fell a bit short. I still looked a bit wild, a bit young, a bit too much like the girl who preferred to spend my summer days in trees, or on my bike, or in the dam by the river behind my house…There was a war going on internally between the girl with the perverse sexual fantasies, and the child inside of her.
With a sigh, I hopped onto my red Shwinn bike and headed for the high school. I gave Charlie a wave as I rode past─ he was laying drop cloths over the hedges.
When I arrived, the scene was exactly how I pictured it. The boys were playing football, completely self assured and oblivious, laughing, joking, almost blissfully ignorant to the gaggle of girls who had come to watch them. That was the thing about boys. They could have as much fun together─ without girls─ as they could with them. The girls in my grade used to be that way too. We used to all be friends, and have sleepovers, and spend all summer long together in each other's bedrooms, and yards. But somewhere along the way it was decided that there was no fun to be had unless boys were involved. I wondered if I was the only one who missed it being just the girls?
I looked at the girls clinging to the fence, preening themselves, posing like fools. Jessica Stanley, the girl who I had spent an entire summer watching Little House on the Prairie marathons with when she had poison ivy so badly that she couldn't leave the house. Or Lauren Mallory, the girl whose backyard pool was the setting to endless hours of blissful childhood fun─ the kind of fun I just couldn't have anymore because I wasn't a kid.
Standing there, at fifteen, I barely recognized them.
"Hey Bella, over here!"
I turned to see Angela waving for me. She was wearing an outfit I had never seen before. She looked almost fashionable in a skirt and blousy top. I tried to repress my jealousy.
"Hey," I said, walking toward her. "When did you get here?"
"I got a ride with Jessica and Lauren," she said.
Then I really had feelings to repress. "Oh, that's cool," I whispered, wondering in almost a panic how already, on the first day of summer, I had managed to be snubbed and left out.
"Don't be mad," Angela said, reading my face. "You live so close, no one thought you'd need a ride,"
It was true. I was only a few blocks from school. But I was also the only idiot who rode in on a bike.
"I'm not mad," I said, starting toward the group. "Let's just do this thing."
By the end of the night, I had managed to gain the attention of no boys─ and Angela had plans to go to the movies the next night with a shy quiet Bingley type named Ben Cheney.
My premonitions, my fears, were all coming true. That night as I laid in my bed, the summer breeze washing over me through my large bay window, I could feel in the pit of my stomach that Angela was pulling away from me. She was so excited to talk to Ben. There was a new tone in her voice, a skip in her step…she was giggly, and her eyes fluttered, and she shoved Ben's chest gently when he teased her about her glasses.
Then I thought of all the smiles exchanged that night─ between Angela and Ben, and Lauren and her crush Tyler Crowley, and Jess and her crush Mike Newton─ and realized undoubtedly that I was the odd man out.
I decided then that I'd be better off just being me, Bella Swan, lover of trees and bicycles and books─ and forget about the uncomfortable awkward pressure filled weirdness that I subjected myself to that night. None of those boys interested me anyway. I was looking for a Darcy, not a Collins.
The next morning, Charlie was up bright and early for his first full day of house painting. I was woken to the sound of ladders banging against the house, coffee and bacon in my nose, and that odd feeling of hot sun on my face coming in through the open window.
I was aware that only the morning before I had told him resolutely that I wouldn't help him with the job. But when I heard him tune his AM/FM radio to oldies, and his melodic hum filled my ear, I couldn't think of anywhere else I'd rather be than with my dad, shooting the breeze, and painting our house.
A wonderful sense of calm came over me with the decision too. Taking the pressure of boys and kissing and preening and primping off the table, made me feel lighter…happier. Maybe Angela was ready for that? And I was happy for her, really. But I wasn't ready, I decided then. I just wasn't.
I changed into some work clothes, and headed outside.
"Morning Dad," I said, shielding my eyes as I looked up to him on his ladder.
"Morning Bells. Don't you have some loitering to do?"
I laughed. "I was thinking I might have some painting to do?"
Charlie smiled down at me in his overalls and old trucker's hat. "Well, then grab that scraper and get going on the trim around the back windows"
I groaned. "Scraping?"
"The most important part of any paint job," Charlie lectured, amused. "I'll be scraping for a good week before I lay down any paint."
I nodded with a sigh. "Scraping it is," I said, reaching for the scraper, and reminding myself of the hopeful feeling I felt earlier.
By noon, I found myself to be a pretty skilled scraper, learning quickly how to most efficiently remove old paint─ finding the best angle and pressure…sort of proud of my ingenuity.
I was lost in a lulling rhythm when I heard the ladder crash. BANG!
It took me a second to come to. "Dad?" I asked quietly at first…but quickly came around. "DAD!" I cried, running toward the sound.
When I made it to the front of the house, my father was on the ground writhing in pain. "My leg!" He cried.
I got to my knees, and tried to get hold of my father's face. "Dad what happened?" I asked in a panic.
He was in agony. "The damn ladder didn't hold! I broke my damn leg!" he cried.
Then I made the unfortunate mistake of looking at his left leg, which was bent in a shape that wasn't born in nature.
I swallowed the saliva flooding my throat. "Ok Dad, hold on, I'm going to go call an ambulance," I said, leaving his side and running for the front door.
Six hours later, after x-rays, and orthopedists, and cast color selections, and tons and tons of waiting and sitting ─ Charlie was finally resting comfortably in a hospital bed─ his leg elevated in traction.
"Damn ladder," Charlie mumbled to me through bites of green Jello.
I felt badly that my father's project, one he worked so hard to plan, had been spoiled on practically the first day. Sometimes I just wished my dad would catch a break once in a while. It seemed he had a cloud over his head or something.
"I'm sorry Dad," I said, not really knowing what else to say. "What are you going to do now?"
Charlie let out a huff, loaded with frustration. "Don't know," he sighed.
"I could do it?" I offered weakly, and Charlie just smiled, knowing that idea was beyond hopeless.
Just then a doctor came in─ one we hadn't seen yet. I thought for sure we had seen them all. He was blonde, and handsome, and no one I had seen around Forks before.
"Afternoon folks, I'm Dr. Cullen, the attending here. I just thought I'd check in on you before you check out."
"Afternoon Doctor," Charlie said.
I got shy, as I typically did, and just smiled at him.
"So tell me what happened─" The doctor started, searching for Charlie's name on his chart. "Mr. Swan?"
"You can call me Charlie," Charlie nodded. "Or Chief Swan if you'd like."
"Ok, Charlie," the doctor smiled. "How'd you break your leg?"
"Busted ladder, trying to paint my damn house," Charlie spat. "The locks didn't hold."
Dr. Cullen nodded in understanding. "Ouch, well I'm sorry to hear that," he said.
"Yeah, and now I have 20 gallons of paint to add insult to injury."
The doctor let out a little laugh. "That's a lot of paint."
"Yes it is Doctor…yes it is. I'm going to have to hire somebody I guess. I don't think the house can go through another winter without some paint."
The doctor nodded in understanding, and then his brow furrowed with a thought. "Well, we just moved here from Chicago, and my son Edward is bored stiff," he said.
I knew where he was headed, and I instantly got butterflies in my stomach. Just the thought of a boy, any boy, painting the house made me nervous.
"Oh yeah?" Charlie asked, sounding intrigued.
"We signed him up for summer baseball, but that doesn't start for another month. He doesn't know anybody, and he's just sitting around. I think a house painting job would be just the thing," the doctor said.
Charlie perked up. "How old is he? I'd pay him of course."
"Of course," the doctor nodded. "He's just about eighteen. He's got a birthday coming up…going to be a senior."
Then Charlie turned to me. "What do you think Bells?" He asked, knowing no decision was made in our house without my input.
But I was still lost somewhere between son─ and almost eighteen─ and new to town. A boy. The teenage son of an admittedly extremely hot doctor, painting the house for the summer?
I couldn't think. "Uh…"
"He's a nice boy, he doesn't bite," the doctor said then with a patronizing wink.
I must have seemed like such a child. "Ok," I stuttered. "Sure."
And then it was settled. Dr. Cullen's almost eighteen year old son Edward was coming the next day to paint the house. I could have died, and I hadn't even seen him yet.